Grote's Gripes: Ya Gotta Love These Yankees

BRONX, NY – My pinch hit column a few weeks ago focused on Miserable Mets of the past. During the discussion there was a request that I do some other teams. In light of the Yankees sweep of the Red Sox this weekend I’ve decided to do the impossible, list an all-time Yankee team that I enjoyed watching. These aren’t necessarily the worst players to play for the Yankees in my lifetime but players for one reason or another I didn’t loathe.

    1B: Steve Balboni – Bye bye Balboni was a nickname that was supposed to describe his home runs but more often was what opposition pitchers said to this fatso after yet another K. Bused tables at Stan’s Sports Bar after most home games. Was rumored to have a roster bonus in his contract where he would receive his weight in Yankee Franks.
    2B: Chuck Knoblauch – Wow was this a train wreck night after night. Was haunted by the ghost of Steve Sax at second and couldn’t throw straight. One of his errant throws sailed into the stands and hit Keith Olbermann’s mom in the face. Also had that great brain cramp in the playoffs where he argued with the first base umpire as the eventual game winning run circled the bases.
    SS: Alvaro Espinoza – This guys started for THREE years for the Yanks in the early 90’s. Was so bad that he lost his job to Andy Stankiewicz.
    3B: Mike Pagliarulo – Was a cornerstone of the Yankee teams of the late 80’s where he sported a .229 average in six full seasons as starter. YIKES. I particularly enjoyed Scotter Rizzuto pronouncing his name with Italian pride every time, just before he’d pop out to shortstop.
    LF: Luis Polonia – It was twenty years ago this week that Luis, during a Yankee road trip, was arrested in his Milwaukee hotel room for having sex with a 15 year old girl. Never to miss a marketing chance, the Yanks held Luis Polonia night at the Stadium where all girls fifteen and under received a free hot dog. Luis and Mel Hall set career day at NYC Junior High Schools back 80 years.
    CF: Mickey Rivers – I just loved the way Mickey walked around like an eighty year old man one minute, then the next would be flying around the bases. I think Dana Carvey’s Turtle character was based on Mick The Quick.
    RF: Raul Mondesi – When the Yanks acquired this guy the fans fell in love with his arm and power. The fans were calling into the talk shows after game 1 of the 2002 playoff series vs. the Angels saying how much they loved him because he threw someone out at the plate. After the Yanks were eliminated in Game 4 of that series the same fans were calling for him to be cut because he couldn’t hit a lick. His name and play will always remind me how fickle Yankee fans are.
    DH: Kevin Maas – This guy hit 21 HR’s in 79 games as a rookie and was hyped as the next Roger Maris. The next year he got a chance to DH full time and hit 23 HR’s but batted .220 with 120 plus strikeouts. All this guy did was swing for the fences and it was fun to watch – because he would either strikeout or hit a homer. Eighty percent of the time he struck out.
    C: Rick Cerone – Had a very tough task of following Thurman Munson as Yanks catcher. The two things I liked most about Cerone was his white boy fro and his 10 Jeans commericals. Rick Cerone, sex symbol? Say it ain’t so, Yankee Joe.
    P: Pascual Perez – Could there be anyone crazier to have played this game. He would hold runners on first base by looking between his legs. After taking his customary beating on the mound he would sprint to the dugout with his Jehri-curls flying in the Bronx breeze. Was suspended for cocaine use which might explain some of his bizarre antics.
    CL: Dave Righetti – Every time Righetti took the mound in a save situation it made me feel good that the Yanks ruined his career by turning a starter with loads of talent into a closer for a 3rd place team. The Yanks spent the rest of the 80’s fishing for a lefty starter with the likes of Steve Trout.

It’s too bad I don’t have all the bells and whistles down for the editor or I would’ve placed a few video links for you folks to enjoy. Maybe the staff will contact me with assistance. Anyway let me know what you think of my lifetime Yankee squad.

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